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Johnson & Johnson Ordered To Pay $29 Million After Lawsuit Claims Baby Powder Contains Asbestos, Causes Cancer

Containers of Johnson's baby powder made by Johnson and Johnson are displayed on a shelf on July 13, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
 

A jury in California determined that Johnson & Johnson baby powder was a “substantial contributing factor” to Teresa Leavitt’s mesothelioma, and awarded her $29 million.

 

A Superior Court jury in Oakland, California made the ruling on Wednesday, according to NBC. A whopping 13,000 similar lawsuits have been filed across the country against the massive health care company. NBC reports the company has “lost a string of court cases,” including one last year in Los Angeles, California, where a jury awarded a woman $25.7 million after claiming the baby powder caused her cancer. Also last year, a Missouri jury awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women who all said they got cancer after using the baby powder.

In response to the lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson released a statement about the verdict, saying the company plans to appeal.

We are disappointed with today’s verdict and will pursue an appeal because Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer.

There were serious procedural and evidentiary errors in the proceeding that required us to move for mistrial on eight different points during the proceeding. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have fundamentally failed to show that Johnson’s Baby Powder contains asbestos, and their own experts concede that they are not recognizing the accepted definition of asbestos and are ignoring crucial distinctions between minerals that are asbestos and minerals that are not. We respect the legal process and reiterate that jury verdicts are not medical, scientific or regulatory conclusions about a product.

Importantly, in recent cases, there have been multiple defense verdicts and mistrials. This track record shows that there are one set of facts in these cases, and that decades of tests by independent, non-litigation driven experts and institutions repeatedly confirm that Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. We believe these issues will warrant a reversal on appeal.

 

Despite the verdicts, Johnson & Johnson maintains that its baby powder formula does not contain asbestos, and set up a website called “Facts about Talc” to try and dissuade the public from continuing to think one of its most popular products contains the harmful mineral. It includes a section linking to multiple studies conducted over decades that showed no increased risk for ovarian cancer in women who used baby powder.

 

Still, a corporate website has its own agenda, and juries didn’t believe Johnson & Johnson’s science in multiple verdicts across the country.

Johnson & Johnson also claims on its “Facts about Talc” website that every verdict that has gone through the appellate process has been overturned.

“Further, there have also been several trials where juries have concluded that Johnson & Johnson’s product was not responsible for the plaintiffs’ cancer, and in other instances, judges have dismissed cases outright, based on their own review of the facts,” the company says.

Mesothelioma is a terrible form of cancer (as if any form of cancer isn’t terrible) and Johnson & Johnson will have to do a much better job of convincing juries that their products don’t cause cancer. Even if the verdicts are overturned on appeal, the story still gets out that a large amount of money was awarded, and people believe a common household item isn’t safe.

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